Good Morning Oscar, December 29: The Boys Club

The year winds down with real men, pregnant ladies, wooly villains and lots of screeners

The year winds down with real men, pregnant ladies, wooly villains and lots of screeners.

"The Kids Are All Right" faces a big obstacle in its quest for Academy Awards, says Anne Thompson: men in the Academy. "Oscar campaigners call them the Steak Eaters," she writes about the rank-and-file AMPAS members who are credited with the victories of films like "Silence of the Lambs," "Braveheart," "Gladiator" and "Crash" over "Brokeback Mountain." This year, she and her sources thinks the guys will help out "True Grit," "The Town" and "The Fighter," but will be uncomfortable with "Kids" because it's a small-scale women's film about a gay relationship, directed by a woman (Lisa Cholodenko) from the world of indie films. But Thompson still predicts that the film will get a Best Picture nomination, along with acting nods for Bening, Ruffalo and a possible win for Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg in the original screenplay category. Sounds pretty good for a movie that has the Steak Eaters against it… (Thompson on Hollywood

Barry PepperMy favorite part of the Speakeasy interview with actor Barry Pepper, who plays the villain "Lucky" Ned Pepper in "True Grit" and talks to Todd Gilchrist about working with the Coen Brothers and sticking close to the original Charles Portis novel, is the headline: "Barry Pepper on his Understated 'True Grit' Role." Now, I can think of a few words to describe Pepper (left) in the movie – but with his wild eyes, busted teeth, wooly chaps and spewing spittle, understated  is not one that would ever have come to mind. (Speakeasy)

Will Natalie Portman's pregnancy help her Oscar chances? Jo Piazza thinks so: "The two factors that really drive a good Oscar campaign aren't talent and honor but likability and buzz. With her perfectly-timed wedding and baby announcement, Natalie Portman is garnering both." She wouldn't be the first pregnant actress to win – Catherine Zeta-Jones did it in 2002 – but I balk at the idea of that pregnancy having much impact on voters, particularly when you're dealing with a performance as ferocious as Portman's in "Black Swan." Most of the people quoted by Piazza disagree, though Bonnie Fuller shrugs off the question of its impact on the race and gets to the heart of the matter: "While it may not affect her chances for the Oscar, it will make the speculation about her gown choice all the more gripping!" Oh, the heart races in anticipation … (PopEater)

John Lopez asks the same question about Portman (the question about whether the pregnancy will help her Oscar chances, not the one about what she'll wear), and decides "the only way it could hurt would be if the Oscar voting blocks coincided with the male population of Facebook." Examining the crucial Christmas-to-New Year's period when Oscar voters watch a lot of screeners, he also decides that "The Social Network" was helped by a round of David Fincher Q&As, and that the strong boxoffice showing for "True Grit" could coax voters into theaters and make the film "a meaner Oscar contender than some pundits have predicted." (Little Gold Men)

More plaudits for "The King's Speech" from the ranks of stutterers: Lindy Washburn talks to speech therapists, academics and the head of the Stuttering Foundation, which says the film "has done in one fell swoop what we've been working on for 64 years." (The Record/The Spokesman-Review)